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Book Review: Head First Excel: A Learners Guide to Spreadsheets by Michael Milton

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Head First Excel is a beginner’s guide that will appeal to visual learners.

If you use Microsoft Excel for work or personally for calculations and spreadsheets, here’s your chance to bump up your skills to a new level. The book includes lots of charts, side comments and amusing visual effects. In fact, much of the book is illustrations, examples, and humor.

The book’s creative layout shows exactly what to do, whether you want to sort data, create a chart, or learn math functions in Excel. These are all things Excel is great at, and other programs don't do. So consider Excel as a useful tool, and apply what you learn as you go along with the workbook. You might be surprised by the ideas and applications presented.

As a basic guide, Head First Excel is not for everyone, but if you’re new to spreadsheets, or want a better way to manage data, take a look. The exercises are based on Excel 2007 for PCs and some functions are not yet in Mac versions. Like any good user, author Milton relies on Excel’s powerful Help files to lead you through more complex and specialized functions. You'll learn things you never expected, such as: Advanced formula auditing allows you to see where data comes from and flows to, and lets you trace precedent and dependent cells in the formula.

Throughout the exercises, Milton pushes you to apply what you learned, think about alternative ways of getting results, and encourages you to make notes in the book.

At the end of the exercises, there’s a useful “There are no dumb questions” Q & A section.

Head First Excel doesn’t cover everything in Excel, like macros, but it forms a good basis for you to work your way through advanced features. Remember, though, you can’t just read it. You’ll get the most benefit if you work along with the examples, download sample files from O’Reilly’s Head First web site, and have fun with it.

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About Helen Gallagher